Joy isn’t dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn’t dependent upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving. It’s that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science of goodness. Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond my control -I can’t go around making everything how I want it – still, I can be kind, generous, and patient,and do good, and develop virtue. That I can do, and that’s worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn’t make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.
The three days of the Easter Festival contain a number of beautiful rituals which have been celebrated by human beings for thousands of years. These rituals touch of the big themes of human life – loss and death, betrayal and loyalty, meaning and love – and do so in a way that allow us ways to share significant emotions with others. The city of Geneva was quiet this morning, as it has been the last few days. It is good to have seasons and rhythms in our lives, periods of less activity with time to celebrate with family and friends. These celebrations can become familiar rituals in our lives – they bring us together and allow us to connect, and through connection find support and meaning. They open us up to something which is beyond the rush of each day and the limitations of work:
Ritual maintains the world’s holiness. Knowing that everything we do, no matter how simple, has a halo of imagination around it and can serve the soul enriches life and makes the things around us more precious, more worthy of our protection and care. As in a dream a small object may assume a significant meaning, so in a life that is animated with ritual there are no insignificant things. When traditional cultures carve elaborate faces and bodies on their chairs and tools, they are acknowledging the soul in ordinary things, as well as the fact that simple work is also ritual. When we stamp out our mass-made products with functionality blazoned on them but no sign of imagination, we are denying ritual a role in ordinary affairs. We are chasing away the soul that could animate our lives.
Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul
Look at everything
as though you were seeing it
either for the first
or the last time.
Then your time on earth
will be filled with glory
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The same stream of life that runs through the world
runs through my veins.
All the world religions and wisdom traditions come to the same conclusion: True contentment comes about through working out, through the twists and turns of one’s own life, a personal understanding of these deeply different realities.
For whoever has learned to love,
for whoever has learned to suffer,
life is imbued with serene beauty
More lessons from these three days. There are different ways of saying that at times we need to be patient, to sit in silence and wait for the real meaning of what is happening to become clear. It is put beautifully in this quote: we need to give difficult periods the space their “gentle origins” demand. We do not need to “add on” stories, which only ultimately make things more difficult.
If you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge – from which new sorrows will be born for others – then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply. And if you have given sorrow the space its gentle origins demand, then you may truly say: life is beautiful and so rich.